Making the best use of soil type, climate and growers’ skills at our regional farms around the UK is our way of growing fruit and vegetables as close to your home as practical.
Guy Watson, Riverford on Wash Farm, Devon
Though we grow around 80 different varieties of veg in Devon, the biggest volume by far is potatoes. Along with our co-op of growers we’ve had 250 acres of spuds on the go this year, in an array of varieties selected above all else for flavour. Overall it’s been a good growing season with very little blight. Meanwhile our winter brassicas are looking very healthy too. The damp August got them off to a good start, with plenty of moisture to get them established. The dry September meant there was less fungal disease about, so our leeks are looking in fine fettle too. However all this good work can be undone if we have another harsh winter like last year, when 30% of our purple sprouting broccoli was lost to frost. Fingers crossed for an easier ride from Mother Nature this time.
Nigel Venni, Riverford on Sacrewell Farm, Cambridgeshire
After losing much of our six acre swede crop to a suspected attack of cutworm, and our chard to blackfly, things seem to have turned a corner for Nigel and his team. The beetroot and spinach crops were saved from devastation by an army of ladybirds, which arrived just in time to see off the blackfly and give the plants enough time to recover their growth. The eight acres of leeks planted between April and June this year are looking very strong, and the team expect to be harvesting them through to the end of January. They planted a mixture of varieties that mature at different rates. Meanwhile the last of the 30 acres of red and brown onions grown at Sacrewell (they love the free-draining soil here) have been harvested and are now snug in wooden crates in the drying barn, ready to see you through the winter and beyond. Half the purple sprouting broccoli crop was lost last year, but we’ve planted another four and a half acres for January.
Peter + Jo-ann Richardson, Riverford on Home Farm, North Yorkshire
It’s been a good year for Peter; after terrible crop losses last winter (all his cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli crops were wiped out), the warm spring set the young seedling veg up well for the growing season. For the autumn crops it’s been a ‘forward year’, as Peter describes it, with much of the veg being ready weeks earlier than normal, especially the cauliflower. The ten acres of organic parsnips are looking particularly good, as are the leeks. All we need now is a good frost to set the sweetness in their flavour, but not so much of a freeze that we can’t get them out of the ground.
Chris Wakefield, Riverford onUpper Norton Farm, Hampshire
After a busy year harvesting herbs, chillies and banana peppers (yellow ramiro peppers) from our polytunnels, Chris and his team have cleared them out and now have the winter crops in place. We are growing Butterhead lettuce, which will be harvested for your vegboxes until a little before Christmas, and are overwintering a crop of spring onions, ready for harvesting in March and April next year. The perennial herbs growing outside have struggled over the last couple of winters, especially the rosemary, but Chris is hoping to dry the final cut from the sage bushes, so you can still enjoy it in the colder months. It’s early days yet, though!
Ed Walters, Bower Farm, Hampshire
Many of our organic turkeys are reared by Ed Walters, whose family has been farming turkeys for over 35 years. They are Kelly Bronze birds, a slow-growing breed that reaches full maturity naturally, spending the first five to six weeks snug in a barn under heat lamps, before going out to grass from around eight weeks of age. They are bedded down with fresh straw every day and tucked up in the sheds at night to protect them from foxes. They spend their days trotting and gobbling their way around the organic pasture and popping in and out of their sheds whenever it takes their fancy.
Ross Gardner, Spurtham Farm, Devon
For the first time we have organic geese available for your Christmas table and Ross is the chap charged with rearing them. The Gardner family has been farming poultry for over 40 years, so they certainly know how to keep their birds happy. The geese arrived at the farm as day-old goslings in May and were reared under gas brooders to keep them warm for the first 12 days. They now pad about the fields in a small flock of 250 birds and graze the organic pasture, along with a little supplementary organic feed. They are determined foragers and have plenty of outdoor space to express their natural behaviour, though they prefer to head inside their straw-filled barn at night.